|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
19 - 25 October 2000
Issue No. 504
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Striving for efficiencyBy Sherine Nasr
During the past five years, the Egyptian economy has grown steadily at an annual rate of 5.5 per cent. Expansion has led to a dramatic increase in the consumption of electricity, with new industrial zones and mega-projects in Toshka, east of Port Said and the Gulf of Suez increasing the pressure on available sources of energy.
"If growth rates continue at the same pace, Egypt will face an energy crisis which could decrease the pace of development," said Emad Hassan of the Organisation for Energy Planning (OEP).
Currently, 97 per cent of electricity used by Egypt is generated from non-renewable sources. Oil and gas are used to generate 92 per cent of electricity used by Egypt, while five per cent is generated by the High Dam. Renewable sources, namely, wind and sun, fulfil three per cent of Egypt's electricity needs.
To stave off the impending crisis, he recommends that electricity be used more efficiently. To ensure that industry rationalises its use of electricity, Hassan suggests that laws be passed to mandate measures in this regard.
That it is possible to use energy more efficiently on a national level is supported by a recent OEP study which assesses the progress made by various countries from the mid-1990s to 2000. According to the study, China is a leader in this regard. Egypt, in contrast, has shown no improvement at all. Morocco, which has a growth rate comparable to Egypt, has achieved a middling performance compared to other countries in the Middle East. The United States, with one of the largest industrial bases in the world, has done only slightly better than Morocco in terms of a percentage of its total energy consumption.
Egypt's energy-conserving performance is not helped by the fact that there are disincentives to use electricity efficiently. According to Ibrahim Abdel-Gelil, executive manager of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), the availability of sources of energy locally is one such factor. "Egypt has never imported crude oil to satisfy its industrial demands," he said.
Another factor cited by Abdel-Gelil is the high cost of technologies that are energy-efficient. Obsolete, but inexpensive technologies poured into the Egyptian market following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mohamed Amin, director of the Al-Tebbin Institute for Metallurgical Studies, suggests that the prevalence of these technologies did more harm than good to the Egyptian economy. "These technologies cannot compete with more up-to-date ones that take into consideration the energy efficiency factor," said Amin, suggesting that the import of these technologies should be prohibited by law.
Towards encouraging consumers to use energy more efficiently, the Egyptian government has gradually increased the price of electricity since the early 90s. Electricity is sold at higher rates to industry than it is to households.
The shift towards privatisation has also helped to rationalise energy consumption in the manufacturing sector. "Consumers of energy in privately-owned projects are keen to rationalise their use of energy to save money and thereby produce a more competitive product," said Amin.
As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Egypt participates in a framework to enlist assistance from developed countries to ensure that its development is environmentally sound. "At present, we are negotiating with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to provide US$50 million in aid to establish an electricity generating station using renewable sources of energy [sun and wind] near the Red Sea," said Abdel-Gelil.
Egyptian households can do their part by using appliances that incorporate energy-saving technology, explained Amin. Currently, such appliances are already produced locally, but only for export. However, according to Amin, they will soon be available on the Egyptian market.
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